Wow. Our experiment is off to a great start—let's see if we can finish it off sooner than expected.
Where's the 5 million tons of debris from Japan's Tohoku earthquake and tsunami headed? The government of Japan estimates that 70 percent of it sank to the seafloor while 1.5 million tons kept floating. The map above and video below show track predictions of the Surface Currents from Diagnostic (SCUD) model. From NASA's Earth Observatory:
Orange and red shaded areas represent parcels of water with a high probably of containing floating debris. The deeper the red color, the higher the likely concentration. The debris field stretches roughly 5,000 kilometers by 2,000 kilometers [3,100 by 1,242 miles] across the North Pacific. The model begins with more than 678,000 "tracers" being released from various points along the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011...The still image above shows the predicted distribution of debris by April 3, 2012.
Debris was initially carried by the powerful Kuroshio Current towards the North Pacific Current. Some should reach western North America within a year or two, while much is likely destined for eternal capture in the North Pacific Gyre's garbage patch.